tv Oral Histories Gene Kranz Part 1 CSPAN July 21, 2019 8:00am-8:46am EDT
stand out to you. when a person says, where were you when? an awful lot of great breaks in my life. but the ones related to apollo 11 was the day that i got the assignment to do the landing phase. cliff charlesworth was the lead flight director. responsibilities of the lead flight director is to identify which flight director is going to cover which phase of the mission. and i'm moving in. this was the first mission where, in apollo, where charlesworth and myself were actually coming back together again. you had probably the three most experienced people at the consul.
it was a question of who is going to get to do what? he had been to the moon a couple times. and i had the lunar module experience. you had no particular driver that says this person ought to be doing this phase of the mission. i was division chief at that time. really on top of this, but nailed down who was going to do what.
think there's any question. everybody wanted to do something for the first time. the beauty of the apollo program, there were enough firsts to go around for everybody so when it came time for the first lunar landing, i really got to respect cliff for saying, you take the job instead of me. jobi think he gave me the because i spent most of my time with a lunar module and i had just a little bit more experience in the lunar module. it was a totally unselfish
decision. trying to find out, what is the best chemistry between flight director, team, and mission. >> and it worked. but it had to work. >> yes, there was no question. every mission in apollo had a large number of firsts. a very visiblead profile from a standpoint of the media. question,always this is the lunar landing in jeopardy? fortunately, as we walked through these early missions, you could look them straight in the eye and say no, we are on track. apollotime you got to 11, the media coverage, the external pressures were
incredibly high. but this is one area where cliff charlesworth began as lead flight director. one of the roles was to try to provide the external focus. majority ofed the the mission briefings in the technical sense, he covered many of the media briefings. he kept the pressure's off myself and lenny so we could get ready for the jobs we were going to do. there was no question we were doing something no one had ever done before. >> a lot of pressure? did that worry you? >> again, in retrospect, i would say yes. but when you start feeling the what you do is you find some way to keep your focus
of the pressure goes to the background and there was so much to do to get ready for this. you just immersed yourself in the job and the pressure faded into the background. the only time i ever felt , it was as a result of our training. phoneused to be a directly behind the flight directors. routinely during training runs, the program managers and division chiefs had a too small squak box. and if they ever wanted to hear mission control, they could hear the crew talking in the flight director.
it was reasonably customary that you would turn up these boxes and it was all these going along in the background while you were having your meetings were making telephone calls or whatever. in training, the first month of for kerry for the lunar landing went pretty well. we had come off the apollo nine mission, we had achieved all other objectives. we proceeded into the training seemed every time there was a problem, we would pick it up and run with it. and then the training boss must have looked at us and said that team is too cocky. that team needs to get a few lessons. .nd he called his team up
our second month of training, really only training directly about one day per week. second month of training, we had a particularly bad day where we couldn't seem to do anything right. moon,ng to land on the you have a time delay of about three seconds. , youe time you can respond are three seconds behind what is happening aboard the spacecraft. as you get close to the service of the moon, there is what you matter what you're going to do, you can take the throttle, you are still going to touchdown. we really had not defined this dead man's box. it's a very complex geometry you have to define. it is tied into how fast you are descending, what is the
altitude, what kind of attitude. it has many parameters. it can get pretty bad, pretty quick. we went through a bad, bad, bad day. we had crashed and crashed and to avoid crashing, we became unnecessarily conservative and we would abort when we could have landed. by the end of the day, we felt pretty bad. and from his initial comments, i knew he had been listening to the simulations. i knew he was watching a struggle. said, is there anything i can do to help you? ll, there wasn't anything he could do to help me. find the right
answers, the right chemistry. time in this entire process, i felt the pressure that maybe our bosses were starting to lose confidence in this team that they had signed to do the mission. and that is when i felt the pressure. our response was very straightforward. he could call all day and he would just get a busy signal. we proceeded to dig ourselves out of the pit that we had somehow dug for ourselves. we set a different set of parameters. we became more conscious of the clock and these five fees, we started putting it back together we felt not only were we going to get the job done, there was no question that we would get this close down to the surface of the moon.
and the training process, we just seemed to be on top of everything until the last day of training. this was, again, a very faithful exercise that, to this day, i think -- i thank him for giving it to us. we have a game plan called the mission roles. the mission roles are a preplanned set of decisions where the controllers will sit down and take a look at all the things that could happen in the spacecraft for on the trajectory on a phase by phase asus throughout the mission. and there's a lot of raises, so you end up with a book of mission rules that is literally forages take, thousands of rules. but the controllers have come to the point where we have exercised these, we have proved them right. andtraining people looked they solve one entire area that
was not treated at all. and it was associated with various alarms that are .ransmitted and on the final day of training, which i had expected be the graduation ceremony, they would give us tough problems, but they would not give us anything that would kill us. well, that was not their approach. in the final training exercise, they gave us a set of problems on board the spacecraft. down, we started seeing a series of alarms coming from the spacecraft. i am going to revert to an internal priority scheme so i'm going to work on as many things as i can until the clock runs out and i will go back and
recycled to the top of this list and it is going to get the job done. it may not be updating displays. and if these type of alarms it goes now to a much , where theal alarm computer will await further instructions. happens, you are not going to land on that day. it was a series of alarms we had ever seen before. my guidance officer was absolutely fluster. he called me on board. i feel that we've executed the right decisions. hethe training debriefing said we don't think you exercised the right decisions, we interview should have looked beyond that alarm to see if you could figure out what was happening with the navigation or the displays being updated. you acted prematurely. we did not believe it.
but the guidance officer, you never leave anything untested. says i'm going to look at this overnight and called together a bunch of people from out whate will find we should have done here. i got a call about 10:00 that you and that said the training people were right, we had made the wrong decision. they wanted to do some more training the next day. so, these were two episodes associated with the training for the mission. one, where management had got involved and we were really struggling. when i foundme was out that we didn't have everything wrapped up as well as so these were, the two times i really felt pressure during the course of this mission.
i didn't feel anything externally. they were coasting up, your crew were still operating. getting ready for the big event. what was happening during that time? >> several interesting things. this was my first experience with the trans lunar phase of the mission, we had never had this continuous communication. marvelous totely sit in mission control and see the spacecraft 24 hours per day throughout this entire transit period. thismy standpoint, we used to continue binding ourselves .ogether as a team i would talk to the controllers about it, let's go through the mission rules one final time.
we started dusting off of the loose ends. the trans lunar phase of the period to the final pull all of the pieces together, to go over any of the little items that maybe you did not close out as well as you should have. may be through the final discussion. what we really do this? of thiss a time chemistry that must exist between light director and team ad crew when you have to make very short-term, rapid, time critical, irrevocable decision. because once we got to the surface of the moon, once we got to the point of getting ready to land on the moon, there are only three options. you are going to land, you are going to abort, you are going to crash. we are not only in this particular mode of operation, we
are going to be doing it in front of the entire world. it is now to the point where you look to each other for this confidence you need to work through any time you might have the slightest doubt. generally, the slightest doubt comes in you are tired. so you've got to continue to help each other up. that is the magic of the flight control team that we have here. self-supporting, you know in mission control when a person needs a little bit of help, a little bit more time, and this team has so totally focused the marvelous experience. >> well, all of this paid off eventually, because that landing was not a piece of cake. >> the landing, i don't think that preparedhing us for the intensity of the landing. bit,back up a little
talking about game plan, that was given to me exclusively ,here i had to make a decision a preparation for the mission. managers were concerned that if we would crash and not have enough data to figure out why we crashed, we would be in jeopardy of not only losing the lunar goal, maybe the entire program. surebody wanted to make that there was some formula that would be used by the team to say ok, we've got enough data to continue. ruleught this particular because they wanted some numbers with it. all the wayis
through the process and building the rules, going through the veryws, and i wanted a simple one that some of the flight director will determine whether sufficient data exist to continue the mission. simple, ated that call by the flight director. this was back in for the until very close to the mission, it was not resolved, so i wrote into the mission rules, that exact statement. day, back to the landing this adequate information means voice information and telemetry. as soon as the spacecraft cracked the hill and we were we couldn't communicate. it seemed nothing was going right. immediately, that rule came to mind.
do i have sufficient information to continue? but then we would get a bit. there were a couple times where i would make calls of saying i , this mighttrollers be 30 seconds old. we kept working, trying to figure out what was the problem with the communications. this turned out to be bad .nformation to solve had to try the problem in real time. charlie duke, who was my spacecraft communicator, was looking at the signal strength and he saw the signal strengths vary. he had also worked with the apollo 10 mission.
he suggested, do you think we could have made an attitude change? then, we tried that. fortunately in training. we had also worked in relaying voice information from the ground. we were using every conceivable way to communicate. in the meantime, time is marching down. an anomaly on board the spacecraft where buzz aldrin calls down and he's not seeing what he expects to see on the electrical from a standpoint. again, this is very critical. again, the controllers look at it and said it is looking good. officertime, a guidance has got some tracking
information and the spacecraft is not where it should be. he didn't know whether the data he was getting was bad it was just bad navigation, or if we had some kind of problem with targeting. the problem was, he really got my attention. he says we are out on radio velocity. and we are halfway to our abort limit. when you haven't even started down to the moon and once as we are halfway to our abort limit, that gets your attention. but he continued and said i will keep watching it. ,o, now you got communication you got navigation problems. you are still trying to struggle to meet all of these windows for making your decisions as you are now saying we are ready to ignite the engine.
, the, there's no reason team was working well. we gave them the go to continue. relay that the go to continue. toare getting ready to go the moon and we can't even talk to the crew directly. we keep working through this until it is time for engine start. we have had data intermittently. , we need to capture the telemetry of that point so we know the exact quantities of appellants in the tanks because now the propellants are being settled by the acceleration of the spacecraft. as the engine starts, we lose telemetry so we missed this very valuable point. we continue down.
now from the time we start until the time we land, it should take between eight to nine minutes. this becomes a very intense period where the guidance officer has the drive in iraq is with this navigation problem that we are halfway to the limit. he comes back and gives me a call with a bit more confident. he says we are still halfway to the limit, but it's not growing. he tends to believe that something happened upstream. been a maneuver execution or a did not shut down perfectly. out, thepect, we found crew had not fully depressurized the tunnel between the two spacecrafts. and when they separated the spacecraft, it was like a champagne cork popping out of a bottle. it gave the space craft a little bit more speed than it should
have. like performing an extremely small maneuver. over a time, this maneuver puts the spacecraft in a different position than it should have been. but we did not know that at the time. now, we are in the process of and we are making the calls, everything seems to be going right for a change. you are never quite relaxed during this process. we've learned to work friend broken communications. we are now at the point where we are starting to evaluate the landing radar data. this is an extremely important junction because the lunar module is now using the altitude we gave it based on the tracking data and our knowledge of the positional moon. we now have to update that altitudeby the real measured by the landing radar.
there is a very large difference between the altitude we've given it and what the radar is seeing. they have to find some way to smooth out because you can't make that correction instantaneously. now in the process of determining whether the landing radar is acceptable to enter the computer. from the crewall that they had a computer program alarm. seconds, its total silence, nobody has commented on this. then, the crew comes down and gives us a reading on the alarm. it is certainly coming to a fork in the road. half of my team is trying to decide whether to accept this radar. now, he's got an answer to this program alarm thing. for a time, half the team was moving in this direction, the other half starting to move in this direction.
charlie makes a call. steve has studied these as a result of his training exercise. now, he goes back to his back room controller. i don't see any problems, do you see any problems? now we've worked through this, we are starting to accept the landing radar data. and these program alarms are continuing intermittently. one of the things that steve it mightwith, he says be related to some of the displays the crew is using. we tell the crew to back off very high utilization on board displays on altitude rate. and we tell them we will provide ps. redux -- read-u
this team now is faced with, we are going to the moon. this is not a simulation anymore. it is faced with incredible problems. nobody had ever really anticipated. we thought whatever happens was going to be clear-cut. and yet, this team seems to be getting tighter. the more problems they had, the more effectively therefore were working. a flight control team is always best when they are working problems. from a back room loop, we were never able to identify who said it, a voice comes across and says this is almost like a simulation. and i sort of snickered. there is a point where you mentally back off. the intensity is still there, but all of the sudden, you say we have licked these problems
before, we are going to lick them again. are about five minutes off the surface, communications have improved dramatically in the worried in the background that i might have to make a call is now at the back of my mind. again, communications gets very tight. you can feel the crew has got their landing point identified. they can see that if we continue this automatic guidance, we are going to land in the field. neil take-- we see over manual control. he's got a grid in the lunar europe commission, it is basically oriented that if i don't do anything different right now, this is where ongoing
to land. so we see that as a result of ,his separation of spacecrafts we are going to land about 2.5 miles away from our designated landing site. this was a rocky field area. areae's working into this and all of the son of the sun, you start becoming intensely aware of the clock. in most of the training runs, we would have landed by now, and we haven't landed. laters reinforced moments when my propulsion guy says low levels. we don't have a fuel gauge on board the spacecraft. once you get to the point where you are in the round part of the tank, there is a sensor that says if the crew is at a hover throttle setting, he's going to
have two minutes to go. room, the the back crew is above this setting and below. so the crew is throttling up and down as they are speaking forward, much faster than we can ever expect you and i have a controller in the back room who is looking at the squiggles on the analog recorder. he is mentally thinking there is three seconds above 30%. he is mentally trying to integrate how many seconds we have remaining. and he got pretty good at this during training. to the point where we put a number of 10 second uncertainty. whatever number he gave us, we were always on the safe side. then they call 60 seconds.
60 seconds before we are either going to land or aboard. abort. this has been a mutually agreed on flight that our job is to get the crew close enough to attempt a landing. from then on, the only calls we are going to make is fuel remaining. seconds, thed 30 crew says kidnapped some dust. they say that, we get the call about 30 seconds. about the time the clock hits 17 seconds, it took a few seconds for me to recognize this, we heard lunar contact. there is a probe underneath each one of the feet and when it
touches the surface, crew will hit engine stop and it will fall in. and i hear the crew going takes seconds to recognize that they are going through the engine shutdown, we must be on the surface. thing that wasly out of normal throughout this entire process, then we had never seen in training, with the people behind me start cheering and clapping and stomping their feet. our instructors were over in the room behind a glass wall, and they are all cheering. and you get this weird feeling. you say we are actually on the moon.
i can't even relish that thought because i've got to get back to work because we have to make sure almost instantaneously, whether the spacecraft is safe to leave on the surface of the moon, or should we immediately lift off? within 60 seconds of getting on the moon, i have to tell the crew it is safe for the next eight minutes. and i don't have any voice. duke says you got a bunch of us down here. now i'm trying to get started. this all happened second. finally, i wrapped my arm on the and finally get going, back on track.
still, everybody else's celebrating and we are intensely focused on making sure it is safe to say year. then we have to go into the final one that we are safe to be on the moon for an extended time in in the meantime, the pressure , this isy used something we did not anticipate, we got some heat back. we don't know whether the released cells are going to fire, but we know we've got to stay on our toes. are in crisis mode while everybody is still celebrating.
finally, we see the pressure start to decrease very rapidly. the relief valves have done what they should have done. it is only after we made our t3 stand of -- we did it. today, we just left on the phone. i walked over to the press and all i really wanted to do was effective mission control because we had made so many mission design decisions and nobody believed it. knew we knew in the crew it was almost like a heavy
fog, it was so real. break inollers got a the loss of signal period. and when they came back now, these guys are going to be here and there were only three options. we were going to land, we were going to crash, or we were going to abort. the room goes through almost a ritual. with physically block the circuit breakers in this preferg because we would to burn up the building rather than let a circuit breaker inadvertently at a critical time. and we lock the control room doors. i didn't realize until after the mission when a couple of the controllers really talked about ,ow it was really sinking in
they were not going to get out of this room until we had gotten our job done. probably one of the most vocal about it, saying you don't really know what you are doing when you got a 26-year-old kid in this room and basically, you are going to write in the history books whatever happened today. and then you lock those doors and realize, i can't leave anymore. and i felt i had to talk to my people. i called them up on the system flight director loop. this is a loop that we use only for debriefing. when we debrief and we've got some real, heavy-duty talking. somebody has got to be chewed out. it's very private, very personal. i call the controllers and i told him how proud i was of this
team and the job we were chosen to do. that,cated that i believe in the day we were all born, we were destined to meet in this room this day and at this moment and that, from now one, whatever happened, we would remember this day forever. and we then proceeded to give just a few coaching tips on this. and i said whatever happens, i will never second-guess any of your calls. let's go land on the moon. and they were probably all wondering what we were talking about. vales came upve and said how important this settling down process was. not only to him, but to his people in the back room. such an intense part of the job.
he was what i would say is a prototype of the nerds or the geeks today. he was the first guy working with this data making irreversible, critical decisions. college,r years out of you could feel his emotion. , in we would pull the room did not need intercom. this. you could feel there was one time as we were actually almost to the surface, he was so go that i almost chuckled. he was so intense. this is a group of young people who had signed up to do a job. the first oflly
generations in their entire family to ever go to college. most of these people were midwesterners. the work ethic was absolutely spectacular. i had no doubt that this team was capable of doing the job. their average age was 26 at this time. it almost looks like some of these kids you saw flying the bombers in world war ii, where they would have these true outside. you just feel so intensely proud of these people. , i made had completed one final trip to the training area which is right in the corner of the room, because i wanted to thank all of our instructors. concerned, in his
haste to get into mission control, the day of the lunar landing, my lead trainer had rolled his car. unscathedtely emerged and without second thought about the car he continued to get a ride in here and reported to mission control. walking over to the press conference, we talked about the fact that, not only have we landed on the moon, but i almost felt cheated of the emotional content of that landing. where everybody else was out celebrating, to this day, mission control, you have to stay so intensely focused that other than just a very brief cheer from the team at the time of landing in realizing how
close this thing was, we immediately had to get back to work. i would have liked to have found some way to get some of the feelings and the emotions of the other people. it was marvelous. it was a time of pride. it was a time of turning young people loose, giving them their -- seeing what they could do. i thinkry short time, we united not only our country, but the world. it is marvelous. i just wish we could re-create it today. >> perhaps sometime in the future, maybe on a mission to mars or something similar, that might be such a moment again. >> i sure hope that my children canthe youth of america
find this kind of a dream that we were given, because it was a dream. we were so fortunate and proud to be americans and living and challenged by such a mechanism set of goals. i will think anyone ever consider themselves overworked were underpaid. the pay was the job that we were doing. it was an unbelievable time. announcer: to watch the interview in its entirety, visit /histebsite, www.c-span.org ory. moon landing, the apollo 11 after not michael collins, national air and space museum director --, and former nasa administrator charles bolden reflect on the apollo
program legacy and the impact on today's politics, diplomacy, foreign policy, and space initiatives. air andian national space museum, the state department, and the george washington university space policy institute cohosted this event. >> welcome. to seeruly a thrill space diplomacy draw such a wonderful crowd. thank you so much for joining us this evening. i'm a historian of science and technology and a curator at the smithsonian national air and base museum for the apollo spacecraft collection. 50 years ago this week, the answered a call to land humans on the moon within a decade in return them safely back to earth. a greater